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The 20th century still looms large in Poland, and particularly in Nowa Huta. The eastern suburb of Krakow was built almost from scratch at Stalin’s behest by Poland’s communist government shortly after the Second world War, and is still home to more than 100,000 residents. The area – whose name means “New Steelworks” in Polish – was built as a sort of communised utopia for the city’s workers.

Postcard from... Limburg

Churchgoers in Germany’s cathedral city of Limburg welcomed the abrupt departure of Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst last October when the Vatican suspended him from his duties.

Postcard from... Madrid

For some strange reason, wedging a car into an unnervingingly small underground carpark space has always seemed to be as integral to the average Spanish travel experience as drinking sangria or eating a tortilla de patatas omelette . But now the mystery has been solved.

Postcard from... Bordeaux

The other day I observed the formal induction of the new intake of students at a prestigious college in Bordeaux. Of the 268 students in the hall, 195 of them – more than 72 per cent – were young women, who were about to begin a rigorous 30-month training programme to become judges in the École Nationale de Magistrature.

Postcard from... Barcelona

It is World Cup year, and that can mean only two things: crushing disappointment for England fans (our own fault for believing the impossible) and taxi drivers everywhere displaying faux patriotism by attaching plastic St George’s crosses to their cabs.

Postcard from... Beijing

A state TV exposé on prostitution in China’s “sex capital” and an ensuing police crackdown have drawn criticism from the public, who expressed sympathy for the sex workers.

Postcard from... Paris

What on earth are they smoking in northern France? Hydrangeas, apparently. Police in the Pas de Calais are on the trail of a “hydrangea gang”, which is presumably a direct descendant of the Lavender Hill Mob. Residents of several villages have filed complaints that their prized hydrangeas have been systematically stripped of buds or growing tips. Carefully placed in soil or compost, these buds can develop into new plants.

Postcard from... Mitrovica

They’ve been roughing each other for a century, but now Serbs and Albanians in this ethnically divided city in Kosovo are learning to work together through a sport all about gaining territory: rugby.

Postcard from... Kolkata

There are surely grander places to eat in Kolkata, but there are few where the food is so delicious. Or where the simple pleasure of eating benefits such a worthy cause.

Tony Blair is now advising the governments of no fewer than 20 countries

Robert Fisk: If only Tony Blair could grasp the truth about Field Marshal Sisi

Do the British people love Blair? Do they eat Blair chocolates and wear Blair pyjamas?

Postcard from... Berlin

In the Germany the “British Bobby” is still regarded as a model of gentlemanly policing, so Boris Johnson’s proposals to equip the London Met with German-manufactured water cannons has come as a shock.

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon (centre) welcomes delegates hoping to bring an end to Syria’s civil war to the Montreux Palace Hotel in Switzerland

Geneva talks: Give Syrians a voice

The peace talks are offering a way out of a vicious cycle, and it is one of the very few hopes for the vast majority of Syrians who reject extremism

Former concentration camp prisoners attend a ceremony at the memorial site of the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland, on Holocaust Day, January 27, 2014. The ceremony took place 69 years after the liberation of the death camp by Soviet troops, in rememberance of the victims of the Holocaust.

Holocaust Memorial Day is as much about the future as the past

As we approach a time when there will be no more survivors, focus is intensifying on recording their stories and learning the lessons of then – for now

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walks past his uncle Jang Song Thaek - Jang Song Thaek is reported to have been executed for 'attempting to overthrow the state'

North Korea: Kim Jong-un 'executes direct relations of purged uncle', claim reports

Claims that secretive communist regime has carried out a further brutal purge of those the young leader sees as a threat to his authority

With insights like these, Gerald Howarth must be a shoo-in for the Most Cerebral Backbencher award

This veteran intellectual giant of the frothing right has been a delight since first being elected in 1983

Tony Blair: Global strategy needed to defeat religious extremism

The former Prime Minister argues that the battles of this century will be fueled by religious differences rather than political ideology

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Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
Spain
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'